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Timonen’s quiet legacy

Posted by Eric Fisher On September 20

Fisher column logo2Kimmo Timonen contemplated retirement the past few seasons. Unfortunately, this time the decision may have been made for him.

Timonen didn’t announce his retirement Thursday. But he came pretty darn close.

The veteran defenseman, who was found to have blood clots in his lungs and right leg in early August, admitted that his chances of playing hockey again are “really slim.” Timonen will be on blood-thinning medication at least through the end of 2014. He will be re-evaluated in January.

“We all know the facts,” Timonen said. “If the clot is still there, it’s really easy to understand I can’t play.”

He delivered the medical update in typical Timonen fashion. He wasn’t overly dramatic or emotional. He quietly and effectively presented the facts.

Timonen has never been a spectacular player. He doesn’t have the speed that makes fans “ooooh!” in awe as he skates up the ice. His shot doesn’t have the power that makes people open their eyes wide as they involuntarily recoil from the potential impact. He doesn’t check with a ferocity that brings fans to their feet as he slams opponents into the boards.

Despite the lack of flash, Timonen won the Barry Ashbee Award as the Flyers’ best defenseman five times in his seven seasons with the orange-and-black. He probably should have won the award six times, but Andrej Meszaros won the award for the 2010-11 season. The 39-year-old Timonen, who supposedly was in decline the past few years, won the Ashbee Award the past three seasons. At PhillyPhanatics.com, we ranked him as the fourth-best defenseman in Flyers history.

Consistency is the hallmark of Timonen’s game. As with his steady personality, Timonen never seems to get too low or too high. There aren’t many peaks and there are fewer valleys.

During his seven seasons with the Flyers, Timonen scored between three and eight goals each season. After a peak of eight goals in his first season with the Flyers and a low of three the following season, he settled into the 4-6 goal range for the past five seasons.  If we throw out the 2012-13 season, when injuries limited Timonen to 45 games – the only season with the Flyers in which he played fewer than 76 games – Timonen’s assists ranged from 29 to 40, with last season’s 29 being his only season below 31.

The numbers. The demeanor. They are steady, just like Timonen.

You always knew what you were going to get with Timonen. He was going to play smart and he was going to be effective.

During Thursday’s news conference, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said that of all the things Timonen brings to the table, the element the Flyers might miss the most is his professionalism.

Timonen was a shining example for younger players to emulate. And he was a steadying influence on the ice.

When the puck was on Timonen’s stick in the defensive end, you were confident he would get the puck out of the zone. When he had the puck at the point, you were confident his shot would be on net – unless he was trying to shoot wide on purpose to get a bank off the boards to a player on the side of the net.

Timonen was cerebral player. He didn’t deliver crushing checks, but he was almost always on the “right” side of the puck, particularly in the defensive zone. He made the right pass. Covered the right man. Took the right risks.

It’s disturbing to use the past tense when describing Timonen’s career. But, as Timonen said Thursday, “you have to check the facts and reality.”

The reality is that the chances of Timonen resuming his career are slim and none. Let’s hope that “slim” hasn’t left the building.

If Timonen’s career is over, though, let’s wish a healthy and happy retirement to one of the best players, as well as one of the classiest and most professional, ever to proudly wear a Flyers uniform.

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